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The Middle East is burning - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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During a short meeting between [US president] Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the US capital Washington, more precisely at the White House, the US officially announced it was withdrawing its troops from Iraq. This was followed by US Secretary of Defense [Leon Panetta] visiting the Iraqi capital Baghdad to lower the US flag, and raise the Iraqi flag in its place, during a dull ceremony that did not include any official Iraqi presence.

This represents the official end to the [military] adventure of George W. Bush and his Neo-Conservative supporters, who made certain claims which led to the mobilization of the US military and the invasion of Iraq. This war cost thousands of lives – US troops and innocent Iraqis – not to mention billions of US dollars, which led to the collapse of the US economy, pushing it into the red, whilst it will take the US many years to financially recover from this.

Today, Iraq is a country that has gotten rid of the tyrant Saddam Hussein and ended the rule of the savage Baathist party; however the lack of wisdom on the part of the US administration to invade the country in the first place, not to mention the decisions taken following the ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime, has led the country into a sectarian quagmire. The torture and mass arrests of different Sunni elements in Iraq today is clear evidence of this [sectarianism], not to mention Iran’s increasing influence on the country’s security, politics, and military. However as for Iraq’s economy, Iran has failed to present anything of distinction, whilst the Turks have been able to offer much with regards to high quality products, goods, and services. This has allowed Turkey to acquire a large number of reconstruction projects, and conclude deals to export to various commodities, machinery, and equipment to different parts of Iraq. This has increased Turkey’s standing, allowing Istanbul to practice “soft power” in Iraq, without needing to resort to vengeful, religious, sectarian, or divisive discourse, or military or security interference or intervention. This, however, resulted in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “warning” against the danger that Turkey represents to Iraq. This warning has been roundly subject to mockery and ridicule because by issuing such statements al-Maliki is clearly trying to change the subject and avoid taking about the elephant in the room, namely Iran’s presence and interference in Iraqi affairs, something that al-Maliki describes as “natural” relations between neighbouring states.

Of course, this dramatic increase of the Iranian influence in Iraq would never have happened were it not for the US invasion. This invasion was “orchestrated” by Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, during the George W. Bush administration. Wolfowitz extensively relied on the consultations of the now infamous trio: controversial Iraqi figure Ahmed al-Jalabi, Lebanese academic Fouad Ajami, and US academic of Iranian descent Vali Nasr, in this regard. Today, the Iranian scarecrow is being raised with the objective of reviving the Neo-Conservatives’ influence once more. This could be clearly seen in the US Republican Party’s presidential debates, and indeed the entire race to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. We have seen a campaign to intimidate the American public, and raise fears about the “greatest threat” to America, namely that of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon and targeting Israel and the US. However, the Republicans seem to be ignoring the military growth and rising influence of both China and Russia. Nevertheless, mainly because of the Republicans, Iran remains the greater threat to the US, at least in the public’s view. This rhetoric is being put forward during a period of unprecedented change in the Arab region as a result of the Arab Spring that overthrew despotic regimes, whilst features of genuine democracy are starting to appear and pay dividends.

The despotic regimes in the Arab world and Iran would never have been able to come to power – and indeed keep power – had they not promoted themselves as regimes that are based on the idea or concept of “resisting” Israel, a state that has breached all international treaties, conventions, and laws, without facing any sanction or punishment whatsoever. Israel has occupied lands, killed innocent people, laid the foundations of a racist regime, killed and imprisoned thousands upon thousands, breached all UN and human right laws, obtained chemical and nuclear weapons, and even utilized illegal weapons against unarmed women and children. This is why Israel remains the biggest problem in the Middle East, and it will no doubt reap the winds of the Arab Spring very soon. The extremist right-wing in Israel is aware of this, which explains the intensification of attacks on Palestinian mosques, to the point that an Israeli police station was itself attacked by extremist right-wing “hilltop youth”, for their defence of Arab mosques!

The Middle East is facing a very difficult stage, and things are only going to heat up even more!

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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